IT Asset Disposition Creates Sustainability in Healthcare

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What Is IT Asset Disposition?

Consider the tens of millions of medical devices and the exhaustive number of computers, tablets and servers that hospitals rely on. Eventually, these tools either break down or become irrelevant as technology advances. 

This is where IT asset disposition comes in. ITAD involves removing sensitive data such as patient information from devices and then recycling, repurposing or disposing of the equipment. 

“IT products must be updated to remain current, optimize operational productivity and ensure data security,” says Gina Cano, senior director of business development and environmental, social and governance and sustainability services at Dell Technologies. “Having an ITAD strategy allows organizations to responsibly and sustainably refresh outdated IT equipment.” 

DISCOVER: Healthcare organizations are tackling climate change now and in the future.

How Is Healthcare Implementing ITAD Best Practices?

When recycling devices, avoiding “inadvertent leakage of protected health information” must remain top of mind, says Charles Christian, CTO and vice president of technology at Franciscan Health.

He says that one option for repurposing devices without compromising patient data is to reimage them. This involves deleting existing hard drives and installing a new operating system on the devices. 

“When staff members leave, we don’t destroy their laptops if they’re still functional,” Christian notes. “By reimaging them, the next users get the applications they need and the appropriate security permissions.”

Another common strategy, Christian says, was developed by the Department of Defense. “We call it the DOD wipe. The program writes random ones and zeroes over the hard drive. It overwrites the data enough times that there’s no chance of ever recovering anything.” 

ITAD practices also include shredding hard drives to destroy data.

“At Franciscan Health, we refresh hardware about every 48 months,” Christian says, adding that hospital employees don’t need to manage ITAD services themselves. 

“There are multiple companies that do the recycling.” 

RELATED: Learn ways senior care organizations can reach their sustainability goals.

IT Asset Disposition Services Can Aid Sustainability in Healthcare

Discarded electronics are the world’s fastest-growing waste source, according to the U.N.’s Global E-waste Monitor, and the group estimates that less than 20 percent of e-waste is collected and recycled. 

Third-party vendors, such as CDW and its ITAD partners, are working to change that by making it easier for healthcare organizations to sustainably dispose of old equipment. ITAD vendors remove and transport old equipment, audit assets, wipe data and handle electronic recycling.

“ITAD first prioritizes safely and securely removing the data from IT equipment, then determining which equipment or individual components can be reused, repaired or repurposed to extend the life of that equipment,” Cano says. 

She adds that Dell, which has recovered more than 2.6 billion pounds of used electronics since 2007, also offers “onsite data protection services for an extra level of security, like sanitizing devices before they leave the customer’s facility.”

Christian further explains that to ensure patient data is secure, there is a “rigid chain of custody. In every place the equipment is touched, there is a sign-off. A certificate of destruction attests that they destroyed the hard drives.”

ITAD services also provide medical centers with an opportunity to save money. “If a device is still usable, they’ll put a new hard drive in there and repurpose it,” Christian says. “When they do, we get a rebate.”

Initiatives Working Toward Sustainable Healthcare Goals

ITAD is one method that healthcare organizations are using to improve sustainability. More efficient energy usage is another key solution. There are multiple strategies to accomplish this goal.

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